Rock, July 2023

ATO ATO0638CD; LP: ATO0638

Temples' fourth album was inspired by the concept of phantom islands that have been mapped but don't actually exist – a suitably mind-bending subject for a group who want to make you dance, either literally or in your head. Exotico was produced by Sean Ono Lennon at his upstate New York studio. There are hints of '60s psychedelia in the eastern scales of 'Meet Your Maker' and the swooning vocals of 'Fading Actor', but Temples' modern equivalent is a dreamy, gauzy sound with shimmering guitars and synths, reverby drums and low-end bass wallop. It's powerful but feels simultaneously rather distanced. Most importantly, it seems like they can write great pop tunes at will, with 16 tracks here and not a dud in sight. MB


Heather Woods Broderick
Western Vinyl WV245CD; LP: WV245LP

The LA-based singer/multi-instrumentalist has played guitar with Beth Orton and recorded an album of solo cello pieces, but Labyrinth is a cryptic, haunting collection of songs, conceived in lockdown and made using a limited palette. 'As I Left' is based on skeletal piano parts, but it typically evokes something larger than itself, with Broderick's overdubbed close harmonies shaping expansive melodies. 'Crashing Against The Sun' is built on a larger scale with picked guitar and ghostly keyboards, and veers through some unexpected chord changes. With its ominous drumbeats and tolling piano, 'What Does Love Care' concludes in dreamy yet uneasy fashion. MB


Karl Culley
Stories Save Our Lives
Loose Wire LWKC2301; LP: LWKC2302

Culley is an incisive songwriter and a dextrous, lyrical fingerstyle guitarist. This, his fifth album, is given a warm, glowing production sound by Daniel Webster. He also plays guitars, keyboards and percussion, and his trumpet bolsters the rippling guitar arpeggios of 'Real Champagne'. Culley's yearning vocal style has some overlap with both Tim and Jeff Buckley and blends beautifully on the duets here with London-based singer, Lettie. Seventies acoustic troubadours tended to be poetically confessional, but Culley is more direct, detailing his own issues on 'O.C.D.' and pithily describing rejection on 'Pursued By Hounds'. MB


Svart SVARTCD0000448; LP: SVARTLP0000448

JAAW set out to evoke the condensed heaviosity of '90s industrial rockers like Ministry, and 'Reality Crash', with its squalling, looped guitars, and Jason Stöll's ferocious bass-sound achieves that goal. And in Adam Betts they have a hard-hitting drummer who can also race away at speed, like Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale. Guitarist Andy Cairns, formerly of Therapy?, describes JAAW as 'greyscale psychedelia', and his and Wayne Adams' dual vocals are melodic (after a fashion) but are often half-buried in the sonic avalanche. JAAW mark out some breathing space in 'Total Protonic Reversal' and pull off an adrenalised cover of Björk's 'Army Of Me'. MB